Desert Island Discs is the best thing on the radio. It’s achingly funny, profoundly moving, and even educational. It has introduced me to some fantastic music, and often from people you wouldn’t expect.
I went back through the archives (I love my job) to see what the most surprising song choices were…
Disclaimer: most of them are embarrassing, and some of them are from politicians.
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
Hanks had a pretty philosophical reading into the whole thing. He said LL Cool J is one of the “most delightful, happy, smiling people” he has ever come across, and that in this song he is not just saying “I’m gonna knock you out” but “I’m gonna figure out how to do the right thing regardless of the confines that you place on me.” So profound.
To top it off, he playfully mocked the interviewer Kirsty Young relentlessly for saying “Mama Said Knock You Out” in her BBC accent.
Wretch 32 – 6 Words
It turns out Paul Hollywood’s son fancies himself as a bit of a DJ, or, in the words of the Bake Off host, “he loves doing all the mixing of the songs”. Hollywood chose this because it reminds him of family holidays. Images of him dancing to this while making flan are now seared into my mind.
Fergie – Big Girls Don’t Cry
Alex Crawford has reported from the world’s worst war zones, and apparently it’s Fergie that gets her through the hard times. “This was the song on my iPhone when I was travelling through Afghanistan… and it just reminds me of going through all this jagged countryside when we were off to meet armed fighters.”
Monty Python – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
This is surprising in the sense that the song’s title seems to conflict with everything Piers Morgan stands for, given his notorious cynicism. But don’t get too excited: his reason for choosing it is still pretty bleak. “I was trying to think what I would have to play at my funeral… as my coffin was led down the aisle to a weeping congregation.” Well you can’t fault him for lacking a sense of humour.
Shakira – Waka Waka (the theme to the 2010 World Cup)
“I should apologise for this to everybody listening. This is actually a track I really find quite annoying.” Clegg could barely contain his laughter when he read out the name of the song, and explained that it reminds him of his baby son because he’s obsessed with it and wakes up saying “Waka Waka” every morning. He then admitted that this means he listens to it “dozens” of times a day.
Robbie Williams – Angels
Not only was this one of his choices, but it was the ex-Labour leader’s favourite. “More cheese, I think.” He said it was for Justine, his wife. They saw Robbie Williams together at Live 8 when they were falling in love. Now if that’s not romantic I don’t know what is.
The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
Strictly speaking, this isn’t even that surprising – it’s just so apt I couldn’t resist. And what he said about it in 2006 also feels very poignant given recent events: “Whenever I’m tired and I’ve got to go out and do something, this song just wakes me up and lifts me… I listened to it a lot during leadership election… when I was thinking of the next idea.” Oh Dave Cam, all the things that you’ve done.
ABBA – Dancing Queen
“I’d like something to jig up and down to on this desert island,” said Theresa May. So it turns out the new PM loves a dance. Is anyone else getting flashbacks of Hugh Grant in Love Actually prancing around Number 10 to Jump by The Pointer Sisters? Just me? Okay.
Tom Jones – Sex Bomb
Gordon Ramsey and Sex Bomb are two things I never thought I’d write in the same sentence, but sometimes life lets you down. I’ll let him off the hook though, because it was 2002 and who didn’t love this song then?
Luxury item: a mirror
Okay, this doesn’t really belong on this list, but it is so ridiculous and lols that I had to whack it on at the end. Interviewer Sue Lawley made zero attempt to mask her disgust – this is how it went down:
Sue: “And a luxury?”
Simon: “Easy. A mirror.”
Sue: “I don’t believe it.”
Simon: “It’s true.”
Simon: “Because I’d miss me.”
Sue: “You’re going to let us broadcast that?”
Simon: “I don’t care.”
Desert Island Discs is on Radio 4 at 11.15am every Sunday
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